Point of Beginning

Editor's Points: Where do you fit in?

July 1, 2010


Lately it seems as if many of the trends and technologies in the surveying and mapping professions are converging.

I’ve been following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill with horror but also with interest, particularly with regard to the way maps and GIS data layers are being used to coordinate the response efforts. Never before has the U.S. faced an ecological disaster of this magnitude. But the tools and resources that are available to manage the massive influx of data and provide the information critical to the analysis and decision-making processes are astounding. As Darron Pustam notes in his article on pages 18-19, focused project teams have been able to build systems and models in a matter of weeks that traditionally would have taken a year or longer. And while everyone involved has his or her area of expertise, cross-training and taking on multiple roles is the norm.

Meanwhile, discussions about a national land parcel database are once again heating up, fueled in part by the need for continuous improvement in the GIS used for emergency response activities. Just about everyone, it appears, recognizes the value of organizing land parcel data on a national level. The thirst for data is seemingly unquenchable in today’s electronic and “app-driven” society. Although significant technical and political hurdles remain, Michael Binge believes that national standards and issues are acquiring a greater relevance and thus nudging all stakeholders toward taking action. (See “Surveying GIS” on pages 44-45.)

Then there are the events unfolding within the ACSM following the NSPS board decision in April to initiate withdrawal. Blog comments and discussions on RPLS.com indicate there are many who believe professional surveyors would be best served by looking out for their own interests. After all, as several people have commented, “What has the ACSM done for us lately?” The state organizations are robust and serve their members well, and few professionals in today’s economy have the extra funds available to pay for memberships in multiple societies. As one person commented, there is a general concern over the erosion of jobs that have traditionally been performed by surveyors. Protectionism certainly seems to be a logical response.

And yet, there is the broad view to consider. “This [erosion] is just part of the changing world, so they [those advocating a split from ACSM] will not stop machine control, GIS, scanning or infrastructure gathering by cities, states and federal agencies,” noted one respondent. “Most of the things they worry about have never been regulated by some state surveying board. New tools just allow people to do their jobs better and more accurately.”

Indeed. No discipline is exactly the same today as it was 10 or 15 years ago. Technologies and trends inevitably force change upon all of us.

So where do you fit in? There is no easy answer, so we shouldn’t expect to find one. Instead, we must continue to learn, stretch a bit farther than is comfortable, and acknowledge that true success requires constant adaptation. Each of us is just a small part of a much bigger picture. That thought can help put everything in perspective.

Share your thoughts on this column at www.pobonline.com or www.rpls.com. To contact the editor, send an e-mail to pobeditor@bnpmedia.